News & Notes: K&N West Tackles Sonoma

[media-credit name=”hometracks.nascar.com” align=”alignright” width=”400″][/media-credit]DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Full-time drivers in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West this year all have something in common when it comes to the road course at Sonoma, Calif. None have ever won.

That is an issue they want to resolve when the series returns to the twisting 1.99-mile track for the Pick-N-Pull Racing to Stop Hunger 200 on Saturday, June 23.

Three-time series champion Eric Holmes has come close to going to Victory Lane on several occasions – registering five straight top-five finishes on the Northern California road course. He won the pole there and finished second in 2008. He also finished third in 2009 and 2011 and fourth in 2007 and 2010.

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“It’s been forever the race I want to win and I’ve come so close so many times. It’s been heartbreaking,” said Holmes of Escalon, Calif. – which is about 100 miles from Sonoma. “I’ve been trying for a long time, including in the old (NASCAR) Southwest Tour cars. It’s always been a big race for us in this area.”

For Holmes, who drives the No. 20 NAPA Toyota for Bill McAnally Racing, there has been more to the race strategy than just going for the win.

“You can’t gamble too much when you’re in a points battle,” he said. “For the last six or eight years, including the Southwest Tour, I’ve always been in a points battle. You can’t gamble on that pit stop, on pitting early and running out of gas at the end of the race.”

He and his team may change their approach this year, however.

“The position we’re in this year though, we’ve got to win races to get back in this battle,” said Holmes, who is fifth in the standings. “We’ve got to kind of throw everything out the window and just go for it. So, we’re talking about trying to be aggressive, keep the car up front all day and win like we need to and that will put us back in the points battle.”

Defending series champion Greg Pursley is also hungry for a win at Sonoma. After failing to crack the top 15 in his first three attempts, he finished fourth there last year.

“Winning there would be everything,” said Pursley, who drives the No. 26 GPM/Star Nursery/Real Water Ford. “That’s like one of the top places on my list to win a race. I’ve been going there for so long, with the old Southwest Tour and the West.”

Sonoma presents plenty of challenges for competitors, said Pursley, who raced out of Newhall, Calif., but now lives in Parker, Ariz., where the Gene Price Motorsports team is based.

“Out of all our road courses, it’s the most technical,” he said of the Sonoma track. “It’s the most demanding – physically demanding, because of the heat.”

Pursley, who has two wins this season and is second in the championship standings behind his teammate Dylan Kwasniewski, is also mindful of the points situation.

“My goal last year was to get out of there with a top five for points,” he said. “That place can really hurt you in the points or it can really do you good in the points, because they start so many cars there. You can come out of there with a 40th-place finish and that’s really going to hurt you. You have to really be smart. It’s a long race. You have to keep it on the road. You’ve really got to run the track and not run against other people.”

Teams go through technical inspection at Sonoma on Thursday, with practice and qualifying scheduled for Friday. The Pick-N-Pull Racing To Stop Hunger 200 is set to go green at 12:45 p.m. PT on Saturday.

Race: Pick-N-Pull Racing To Stop Hunger 200
Place: Sonoma
Date: Saturday, June 23
Time: 12:45 p.m. PT
TV Schedule: SPEED, July 12, 3 p.m. ET
Track Layout: 1.99-mile road course
2011 Winner: Joey Logano
2011 Polesitter: Brandon Davis
Event Schedule: Friday: Practice 8:30-9:30 a.m., 10–11 a.m.; Qualifying 1:50 p.m.
Track PR Contact: John Cardinale / Diana Brennan (707) 938-8448 jcardinale@sonoma.com / dbrennan@sonoma.com
Twitter: @racesonoma
NASCAR IMC Contact: Kevin W. Green (661) 392-8543 kgreen@nascar.com / Shon Sbarra (704) 309-5493 ssbarra@nascar.com

SCHEDULE | ENTRY LIST

Fast Facts
Race:
 This event is the eighth of 15 events on the 2012 schedule for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West.

Procedure: The starting field is 40 cars, including provisionals. The first 36 cars will qualify through NASCAR Road Racing style (group) qualifying. The remaining four spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race will be 64 laps (127.36 miles).

Track: Sonoma is a winding 10-turn, 1.99-mile road course, with varying elevation. The NASCAR K&N Pro Series West has visited the track 31 times, since 1969. In addition to the track hosting 22 stand-alone events, drivers and teams competed in nine companion events with the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series between 1989 and 1997.

Records: Qualifying: David Gilliland, June 23, 2007, 91.979 mph, 77.887 seconds; Race: Brian Vickers, June 24, 2006, 67.595 mph, 1 hour 53 minutes 3 seconds.

Series Champion Returns To Action
Former NASCAR K&N Pro Series West champion Eric Norris is slated to return to compete in the series at Sonoma. Norris of Dana Point, Calif., will be driving the No. 31 Kickstart Kids Chevrolet for car owner Patti Offenbach.

In his only series start at Sonoma, Norris finished fifth in his rookie season in 1998. He won the series championship four years later in 2002. He last raced in the series in 2004. In addition to the 65 series starts he made, he also competed in 19 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races and one NASCAR Nationwide Series event.

Away from the race track, Norris continues to work in the television and film industry. One of his current roles is as stunt coordinator on the television series “Sons of Anarchy” on the FX network.

Racing To Stop Hunger Foundation
Pick-N-Pull, the sponsor of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West event at Sonoma, established the Racing To Stop Hunger Foundation, enabling its employees to give back to the communities in which they work. Employees volunteer time at local food banks, among other initiatives designed to raise awareness of hunger issues in this country.

The Pick-N-Pull Racing To Stop Hunger 200 will feature a special ticket package where $5 of each ticket will go to the Racing To Stop Hunger Foundation. The package also includes a free T-shirt that can be picked up at the Pick-N-Pull display booth during race weekend.

West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame Induction and Dinner
The West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame will hold its annual induction and dinner at the Napa Smith Brewery near Napa, Calif., on Thursday, June 21.

Those slated for induction include Bill McAnally, a five-time NASCAR K&N Pro Series West championship car owner and event promoter; Butch Gilliland, NASCAR K&N Pro Series West champion driver; Vic Kurten, car owner; Pat McElreath, crew chief for West Coast Hall of Fame member Hershel McGriff; The Justice brothers, sponsors; B.L Marchbanks, racetrack owner; Bob Phillipi, car and racetrack owner; and Fred Steinbroner, champion driver.

Festivities are set to begin with a no-host cocktail reception at 5:30 p.m., followed by dinner. Additional information about the event may be obtained from Dusty Brandel, 818-842-7005 or 925-552-9887,dusty.brandel@gmail.com.

Race Notes
Kwasniewski Out Front:
 Dylan Kwasniewski leads the championship standings by 12 points. He is the only driver to finish in the top five in all of the first seven races. Kwasniewski, the 2011 Sunoco Rookie of the Year, drives the No. 03 Royal Purple/Rockstar Ford for car owner Gene Price.

Consistent Rookie: Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Austin Dyne has been consistent since making his series debut in the second race of the season. The Malibu, Calif., driver has registered top 10 finishes in all of his six starts – propelling him to second in the rookie points and ninth in the overall championship standings.

Return To Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver, David Gilliland, is on the entry list for the Pick-N-Pull Racing To Stop Hunger 200. The second-generation driver, who was the Sunoco Rookie of the Year in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West in 2004, won the Sonoma event in 2007.

Double Duty: In addition to competing at Sonoma in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West, where he is third in the championship standings; David Mayhew is also on the entry list for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event.

McGriff Returns To Competition: Hershel McGriff is set to make his first start of the season at Sonoma. The 84-year-old legendary driver from Bridal Veil, Ore., has focused on just racing road course events on the circuit since coming out of retirement several years ago. He has three wins in 13 starts at Sonoma.

Midway Point Of Season: As the eighth of 15 races on this year’s schedule, Sonoma marks the midway point of the season. Five different drivers visited Victory Lane in the first seven races.

Third Road Course Event: The Sonoma event is the third of four road course races on this year’s schedule. The series raced at Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah on April 28 in an event won for the third consecutive time by Greg Pursley and at Brainerd (Minn.) International Raceway on May 26 in a race that featured Michael Self scoring his first career series win. The circuit will visit Portland (Ore.) International Raceway on Aug. 26.

Milestone: Sonoma will mark the 260th career series start for Jack Sellers. The Sacramento, Calif., resident – who holds the record for starts in the modern era of the series – made his first series start on the Sonoma road course on April 28, 1985.

Final Notes From Las Vegas
Repeat Winner:
 Greg Pursley won the Star Nursery 200 at The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on June 2, becoming the first repeat winner of the event. It marked his second victory of the season and 11th career series win.

Home Track Pole: Dylan Kwasniewski set the fast mark in qualifying at The Bullring to capture his second 21 Means 21 Pole Award of the season. It was the fourth pole of his career.

Strong Finish By Rookies: Five of the top10 finishers at Las Vegas were series rookies. Cameron Hayley, in fifth, was the top finishing rookie – capturing the Sunoco Rookie of the Race Award. Tim Bell finished sixth in his series debut, followed by Austin Dyne, making his sixth series start. Dylan Hutchison nabbed a career-best finish, coming home in eighth; while Taylor Cuzick also had a career-high finish in ninth.

Near Matching Times: The Time of Race for the Vegas race was within three seconds of last year’s event. This year’s time of 1 hour 23 minutes barely eclipsed the record set last year of 1 hour 23 minutes 3 seconds.

Up Next: Evergreen Speedway
The NASCAR K&N Pro Series West next heads to the Pacific Northwest for the NAPA Auto Parts 150 presented by Gene Price Motorsports at Evergreen Speedway in Monroe, Wash., on July 14. Greg Pursley scored one of his six victories in 2011 when the series visited Monroe last year.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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